How to Treat a UTI While Breastfeeding

Urinary tract infections are more common in women than men due to the shorter length of the urethra, and they can occur throughout the urinary tract, in the urethra, bladder or kidneys 2. While it’s absolutely safe to breastfeed when you have a urinary tract infection, treating the infection requires a little more careful consideration because medications can pass into breast milk 4. Always speak with your health care provider prior to taking any prescription, over-the-counter or natural remedy for a urinary tract infection.

Signs and Symptoms

If you're suffering from a urinary tract infection, a few telltale signs can give it away. You may experience a burning sensation when you urinate and the urine may be cloudy, dark or bloody with an unpleasant odor, explains the American Academy of Family Physicians' website. You may feel like you have to urinate more frequently and may even leak a little urine. If you suspect a urinary tract infection, your health care provider can obtain a urine culture to verify the presence of an infection-causing organism and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Conventional Treatment

A variety of medications are approved to treat urinary tract infections while breastfeeding 2. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin, ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin are all approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Drugs. These medications may be detected in breast milk, but in concentrations below the recommended maximum safe levels. In rare cases, where an infant has a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, these drugs may be contraindicated. It is unknown if the broad-spectrum antibiotics fluoroquinolones (including Levofloxacin or Levaquin) are harmful to an unborn child or a child less than 6 months of age. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends against using these drugs for the treatment of a urinary tract infection while breastfeeding 1.

Alternative Treatment

Cranberry juice has long been a folk remedy for the treatment and prevention of urinary tract infections, but the evidence to support the claim is indecisive 2. According to the NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine, some studies have found that components of cranberries may prevent the growth of bacteria by thwarting the adhesion of uropathogens to cells in the urinary tract, while other studies have found no difference in occurrence rates. Supplementing with probiotics may be helpful in aiding with urological conditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center 3.

Prevention Tips

To help prevent future urinary tract infections and reduce current symptoms, drink plenty of water, but avoid sweetened juices, advises the University of Maryland Medical Center 23. Unsweetened cranberry juice may also help to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. The University of Maryland Medical Center also recommends eating antioxidant-rich and fiber-rich foods, avoiding refined foods and sugars, and reducing your consumption of red meats and trans fatty acids 3.